Day 5: Blagoevgrad to Sofia
We woke up on Thursday knowing it would be the last morning we would see our little boy for many months to come. We checked out of a hotel we may never see again, and drove one more time to pick him up. We were blessed once again with smiles and laughing and reaching for us when we arrived at Alina’s house. I didn’t realize that Andy was videoing him during the pick up, but I was so thankful when we got home to see that excited little face as he reached for me and said, “Gushi!” On the last day, he preferred Andy holding him in the car. He would grab his stuffed animal and snuggle his head on Andy’s lap. He did sweetly crawl over and climb on my lap once, and as he sat facing me planted a big kiss on my lips…..then right back to Andy.
Earlier in the week, we had briefly asked about Isus’s time in the orphanage. There isn’t much information to be had, but they asked if we would like to see it. I felt like it was important for us to see it and take a picture for him because it is part of his story, and we want to always do our best to fill in the gaps for him about his time before he was part of our family. We arrived in the parking lot of the orphanage before I even realized that was where we were going. Alina asked if we would like to go in, and with some reservation (and not wanting to offend any of the caregivers) we said if they would allow it, we would like to go in. Alina asked, and they kindly welcomed us into the lobby where we quickly met 4 or 5 employees. This is the same building where Zoosy comes for therapy everyday, so he was ever so ready to leave once inside the doors. As Andy held him, he repeated over and over that he wanted to go back outside. Visiting the orphanage didn’t help us learn or understand any more, but I am so thankful we were given the opportunity to stand in this place where our boy was brought at 2 precious months old, and where he spent 6 traumatic and lonely months. Even more thankful, that it will only be a distant memory…..one he never has to physically re-live.
The last morning, we only had one hour before our final meeting with the Social Service director evaluating our time with him. It was decided we would just go back to the playground he enjoyed the day before. Isus went straight back to the blocks, and began to amaze us at just how smart he is. At less than 2 years old, he put large Lego blocks together with ease (something I don’t remember our other kids doing until they were older.) Not only was he a master architect of Lego towers, but he did it by color. If we tried to sneakily hand him one of a different color, he would drop it and pick up the correct color. He is definitely all about toys or items that zip, snap, buckle, connect, strap, ect.
He is a very social little guy, and would get so excited when a new toddler entered the play room. He would run over and began saying “baby.”
When the time came for us head to the meeting, I carried him in my arms the same way I carried my other 3 at that age…….laying face down with their bellies resting on my arms. It made him very sleepy and calm, as we walked in the rain to the building. Once at the 5th floor, Andy put his harness on him and ran with him up and down the halls again and again until they were ready for us. When the meeting started, the director asked Alina what her impressions were of our time spent with him. She responded that from the first moment Isus saw us he was happy with us. She said that she believed we were the very best family for him. To hear her say this was quite humbling, and filled my heart with happiness. We were also asked how we thought the time went with him, and we articulated that we couldn’t have imagined it going any better. That we also felt like he was comfortable with us, and that we already love him so deeply and are excited for him to be our son. I’m sure a lot was lost in translation on both sides, but we understood enough.
We signed a few papers, and then began walking to the car. Isus snuggled in Andy’s arms and wore his hat the whole way to keep out of the rain. We arrived back at Alina’s house where we knew it was time to say “good-bye.” This was a moment that I expected to be heart-wrenching. And yet, as with most moments on the trip, my emotions surprised me by feeling complete peace. We knew he would be in loving and kind hands, and that God, in His beautiful timing, would reunite us. Alina and Denis got out of the car to give us a few minutes alone to say our good-byes. Mostly we just snuggled and tickled and laughed until it was time to leave him. I think he would have preferred to stay in Andy’s arms, but it was time for his soup, so he was also eager to eat. We gave him lots of kisses, and said, “We’ll see you soon!” As we slowly drove away, he and Alina stood in the doorway blowing us kisses.
And then that was it. We drove away. It was a strange feeling. We talked about what we wanted to eat for lunch, and what would happen when we drove back to Sofia, and what time our flights were…….all the while thinking about our little boy eating his soup in a small village miles behind us and knowing it could be half a year or more before we see him again.
We can’t help but wonder if he’ll miss us or remember us. We wonder if, as Alina begins to talk about us as his parents, if at some point half a world away, he will begin to call us “Mama and Daddy.” We wonder what new milestones he will reach during this time…….what new words and skills. Will he be a master-walker by then? Will his temperment change? Will he long to be with us again, as we long to be with him?
We have the blessing to be able to Skype with him 2 times a week for the duration of our wait (more if needed). This is a luxury that hasn’t been around for long, and we don’t take it for granted. We hope that if it does nothing else, that it will help him remember our faces and voices, and ease the time between trips for us.
We made it back to Sofia safe and sound, and got settled back into the apartment that we had left behind the first day. We Skyped with the rest of our kiddos, then headed out to get some fantastic pizza. We walked “home,” curled up to watch some American TV with Bulgarian commercials, then headed to bed……for a remarkable 12 hours of much-needed sleep. We had one more day in the city to tie up a few paperwork things, tour the capitol, and prepare to head back home. We were ready.